Steady Life

Both life and literature are usually understood in terms of drama. People make choices which alter them and their circumstances and it is problematic what will come next. That is especially true of courtship, where people know that life with this person will be different and somehow unexpected, and so our romances, which means potential marriages, makes each of us a hero or heroine within our own lives, and that is even true of arranged marriages, where at least the woman is going to live with a new family and put up with a man whom she may barely know. It is also true of the years one spends in college, transforming oneself into a different person, each person the hero of his or her own bildungsroman. So everyone is either young Werther, or the young artist portrayed by James Joyce. Prince Hal became a different person when he became Henry V and Hamlet became a different person we find out only when he returned from college to a home he found passing strange. This dramatic texture of life continues throughout the life cycle, though often, in its later stages, because of changes not of one’s choosing: the death of a spouse leading a person to alter their sense of their place in the world as well as possibly their living arrangements. Even retirement can lead to life alterations if for no other reason than that a person has to find out what they want to do with their time, which is a matter of choices not previously thought possible. Are their hobbies to be expanded into new vocations? Is it time for something different: a bucket list rather than an intensification of an already established side of one’s personality?

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